mini-review · stuff I read · YA all the way

A Thousand Beginnings and Endings edited by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman

36301029Summary from Goodreads:
Star-crossed lovers, meddling immortals, feigned identities, battles of wits, and dire warnings: these are the stuff of fairy tale, myth, and folklore that have drawn us in for centuries.

Fifteen bestselling and acclaimed authors reimagine the folklore and mythology of East and South Asia in short stories that are by turns enchanting, heartbreaking, romantic, and passionate.

Compiled by We Need Diverse Books’s Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman, the authors included in this exquisite collection are: Renée Ahdieh, Sona Charaipotra, Preeti Chhibber, Roshani Chokshi, Aliette de Bodard, Melissa de la Cruz, Julie Kagawa, Rahul Kanakia, Lori M. Lee, E. C. Myers, Cindy Pon, Aisha Saeed, Shveta Thakrar, and Alyssa Wong.

A mountain loses her heart. Two sisters transform into birds to escape captivity. A young man learns the true meaning of sacrifice. A young woman takes up her mother’s mantle and leads the dead to their final resting place.

From fantasy to science fiction to contemporary, from romance to tales of revenge, these stories will beguile readers from start to finish. For fans of Neil Gaiman’s Unnatural Creatures and Ameriie’s New York Times–bestselling Because You Love to Hate Me.

Do you like fantasy, mythology, and retellings? Do you like strong characters in your YA stories? You need A Thousand Beginnings and Endings! Such a great collection of Asian-mythology-inspired short stories from all different cultures written by YA fantasy writers at the top of their game. Out today! So much fun!

(Full disclosure: my friend Preeti has a story set at garba during Navratri, “Girls Who Twirl and Other Dangers,” in this collection and ngl, it’s my favorite ❤️)

Dear FTC: I read a digital galley of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss.

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mini-review · stuff I read · YA all the way

Love, Hate, and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

31207017Summary from Goodreads:
A searing #OwnVoices coming-of-age debut in which an Indian-American Muslim teen confronts Islamophobia and a reality she can neither explain nor escape–perfect for fans of Angie Thomas, Jacqueline Woodson, and Adam Silvera.

American-born seventeen-year-old Maya Aziz is torn between worlds. There’s the proper one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter: attending a college close to their suburban Chicago home, and being paired off with an older Muslim boy her mom deems “suitable.” And then there is the world of her dreams: going to film school and living in New York City—and maybe (just maybe) pursuing a boy she’s known from afar since grade school, a boy who’s finally falling into her orbit at school.

There’s also the real world, beyond Maya’s control. In the aftermath of a horrific crime perpetrated hundreds of miles away, her life is turned upside down. The community she’s known since birth becomes unrecognizable; neighbors and classmates alike are consumed with fear, bigotry, and hatred. Ultimately, Maya must find the strength within to determine where she truly belongs.

I finished Love, Hate, and Other Filters over the weekend.  I was really interested in this title because it was chosen for the Barnes and Noble Discover program.  Not many YA books get to do that.

I really liked Maya, with her constant efforts to make a documentary about everything and her love of all things film. She has a really awesome best friend and her aunt Hina is just YES. I go back and forth on two quibbles. One, I can’t decide if Maya’s mom (and by extension her dad) are too exaggerated in her matchmaking/Good Indian Girls Do What Their Parents Say.  Some times I think yes, perhaps this is stereotypical, but then I think, no, the matchmaking thing isn’t that much more out there than the push to always be “coupled” in our society at large and her parents are also scared to let Maya so far from them when they can’t even control how people react in their own town. Two, the very ending of the book, which I don’t want to spoil, leaves me a bit “huh?” I feel like the author tried to skip a bit of resolution, to let us fill in the blanks, but it kind of defangs the end of the book.  I would have liked more on the page.

But that said, I really liked what Ahmed was going for with this examination of race and ambition in middle America.

Dear FTC: I requested, and received, a digital galley of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss.

mini-review · stuff I read · YA all the way

The Big F by Maggie Ann Martin

S30046340ummary from Goodreads:
Danielle effed up. Big time.

Danielle’s plans for the future were all figured out… until she failed senior English and her single college acceptance was rescinded. Determined to get her life back on track, Danielle enrolls in her hometown community college with a plan: pass English and get back into Ohio State—and her mother’s good graces. Romance isn’t on her radar… until she reconnects with her childhood crush and golden boy next door, Luke.

Between family drama, first love and finding her own way, Danielle can’t help but feel a little overwhelmed. Thankfully she has her friendship with the snarky and frustratingly attractive Porter, her coworker at the campus bookstore, to push her to experience new things and help keep her afloat.

One thing’s for sure: This time, failure’s not an option.

The Big F is a really sweet, real contemporary YA romance that isn’t just about the romance (there’s a love-shape, y’all, but it’s not bad) but about learning to take responsibility for yourself. It’s about realizing that people change. It was really nice to read a teen romance where no one was a d-bag or an alpha-hole. I loved Danielle’s best friend Zoe, she’s a hoot. (Could have done without the romance genre bashing, tho.)

Read for the September Teen Book Group at my store – plus we had a signing for Maggie earlier in the month.

Genre disgression: Books like The Big F, Fangirl, and When Dimple Met Rishi hang out in this really unfortunate space where they’re tagged as YA/teen but really push farther out into the adult world because the characters are eighteen-ish or early college-aged. This is where I feel “New Adult,” as a descriptor, got hijacked early on as a tag that’s short for “here’s your romance with extra sex and maybe kink but not real erotica contemporary” when it really could have been used to signal romances or other genre fiction in either the adult or teen markets with characters that are newly out in the adult world and working out a things that happen to people learning to handle themselves. But the cat’s out of the bag and we’ll never get it back. (I’ve tagged this as “New Adult” because I’m a rebel.)

Dear FTC: I bought a copy of Maggie’s book.

mini-review · Read My Own Damn Books · Readathon · Reading Diversely · stuff I read · YA all the way

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee (Guide #1)

29283884Summary from Goodreads:
Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is ridiculous, rompy, and touching YA novel about Monty (a grade-A, Capital D, Capital R “dissipated rake” and bisexual, sent on the Grand Tour by his dad to shape up or face disinheritance), Percy (Monty’s bestie and unrequited crush), and Felicity (Monty’s younger sister and a bluestocking) in the 1730s. There are pirates, accidental garden nudity, French political shenanigans, and an alchemical secret that chases them across Europe. This was a delightful one-sitting read.

Dear FTC: I read Read My Own Damn copy.

stuff I read · YA all the way

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

Summary from Goodreads:
A laugh-out-loud, heartfelt YA romantic comedy, told in alternating perspectives, about two Indian-American teens whose parents have arranged for them to be married.

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

I first heard about When Dimple Met Rishi months ago when Preeti Chhibber started talking about an upcoming YA romance novel about two Indian kids at a computer coding camp whose parents have decided to play matchmaker.  That sounded a) adorable as all get-out and b) yaaaas, #ownvoices book about two nerdy kids.  Yes, do want, kthanks.

Would you be surprised if I said that basically anyone who walks into our teen section at the store gets this book handed to them?  You shouldn’t be.

Because When Dimple Met Rishi is the most adorable, a-dork-able romance I’ve read in a long time. There’s comics, coding, cosplay, generalized nerdery, and Bollywood. Dimple and Rishi are such great characters who are very smart but also have a lot of life experience to live through, too.  Dimple is extremely angry at her parents for this matchmaking scheme (particularly her mom, since her mom’s sole purpose in life seems to get Dimple to be more girly and snag an Ideal Indian Husband); she doesn’t have time for a relationship, she’s going to focus on her career to develop great apps and software to help people.  Rishi, who is of a more traditional mindset, is determined to be a successful engineer so that he can take care of his parents later on, even if that means depriving himself of a creative outlet that he loves.  I loved the secondary characters of Dimple’s roommate Celia and Rishi’s brother Ashish. But in and around the central romance plot, there are some really sobering scenes with the local rich douche-bros and some casual racism and sexism; Menon uses these really tough scenes to highlight how hard Dimple has worked and how people like to pigeon-hole brown kids. I loved it – such a good book.

If this book does not make you grin with delight there is no hope for you. Definitely a comp for fans of Fangirl, given the characters’ are edging out of teenage years and into adulthood.

(Also, please make this into a movie? It would be the cutest.)

Dear FTC: I received a digital galley of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss.

stuff I read · YA all the way

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale

Summary from Goodreads:
WHO RUNS THE WORLD? SQUIRRELS! Fourteen-year-old Doreen Green moved from sunny California to the suburbs of New Jersey. She must start at a new school, make new friends, and continue to hide her tail. Yep, Doreen has the powers of . . . a squirrel! After failing at several attempts to find her new BFF, Doreen feels lonely and trapped, liked a caged animal. Then one day Doreen uses her extraordinary powers to stop a group of troublemakers from causing mischief in the neighborhood, and her whole life changes. Everyone at school is talking about it! Doreen contemplates becoming a full-fledged Super Hero. And thus, Squirrel Girl is born! She saves cats from trees, keeps the sidewalks clean, and dissuades vandalism. All is well until a real-life Super Villain steps out of the shadows and declares Squirrel Girl his archenemy. Can Doreen balance being a teenager and a Super Hero? Or will she go . . . NUTS?

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is one of my favorite ongoing Marvel Comics series.  A human girl, with a squirrel tail, teeth, proportional speed and strength, and the ability to reason with super-villains (she convinced Galactus to not eat the Earth without throwing a punch).  I was unbelievably excited when I heard that Shannon and Dean Hale had been tapped to write a Squirrel Girl middle-grade novel.  (I got a galley at BEA and got it signed plus I got squirrel ears – bonus! Go nuts!)

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World starts a few years before the opening of the current SG comics run.  Fourteen-year-old Doreen’s dad has accepted a new job and the family has moved from California to the New Jersey ‘burbs.  Doreen is going to start at a new school, try and make some (human) friends, and keep her bushy squirrel tail hidden in her pants (it gives her a bodacious badonk).  That’s all easier said than done.  Her neighborhood is filled with strange LARPers and roaming angry dogs, someone is trapping local squirrels in lethal traps, and this “friends” thing isn’t coming along as fast as Doreen hoped (The Somebodies are the mean kids in any school anywhere).  When Doreen puts the fear of the Jersey Devil into a pack of local hoodlums, she accidentally becomes a superhero: Squirrel Girl!  Who has squirrel friends, like Tippy-Toe!  And rescues babies!  And winds up in a fight for her neighborhood with the newest super-villain menace: the Micro-Manager!

The Hales captured Squirrel Girl’s voice from the comics perfectly (and the footnotes!). They’ve given us a superhero novel that is unbelievably funny with great heart.  The narration rotates between Doreen, Tippy-Toe (who has an amazing Jersey Squirrel dialect), and Ana Sophia, Doreen’s new friend who is a computer genius and is obsessed with socks and Thor (possibly in that order).  There are several text exchange chapters between Doreen and members of the Avengers that are so funny they should be illegal.  The voices were EXACTLY RIGHT and I dare you not to hear the MCU actors’ voices for Black Widow, Tony Stark, and Rocket Racoon when reading those chapters (I almost peed my pants I laughed so hard). Easter Eggs abound for Marvel fans. Go nuts!

Even though Squirrel Meets World is aimed at the middle-grade or teen crowd, the book does not condescend or talk down to its audience.  It’s a bit like the original Muppets movies – there’s something for everyone.  Grown-up fans of SG should enjoy this book, too!

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World is out TODAY wherever books are sold.

Dear FTC: I have a signed galley.  Also, I *high-fived* Dean Hale after we talked about which issue of SG is the best, so there’s that.

mini-review · stuff I read · YA all the way

Ten by Gretchen McNeil

Summary from Goodreads:
SHHHH!
Don’t spread the word!
Three-day weekend. Party at White Rock House on Henry Island.
You do NOT want to miss it.

It was supposed to be the weekend of their lives—an exclusive house party on Henry Island. Best friends Meg and Minnie each have their reasons for being there (which involve T.J., the school’s most eligible bachelor) and look forward to three glorious days of boys, booze and fun-filled luxury.

But what they expect is definitely not what they get, and what starts out as fun turns dark and twisted after the discovery of a DVD with a sinister message: Vengeance is mine.

Suddenly people are dying, and with a storm raging, the teens are cut off from the outside world. No electricity, no phones, no internet, and a ferry that isn’t scheduled to return for two days. As the deaths become more violent and the teens turn on each other, can Meg find the killer before more people die? Or is the killer closer to her than she could ever imagine?

Ten is a very middle-of-the-road book, in my opinion. If And Then There Were None weren’t one of my favorite books, and a masterpiece, and one I hadn’t re-read very recently, I probably would have liked this better. I was mostly right about the murderer, no spoilers, because the McNeil’s book is structured off of Christie’s.  This also felt over-written.  Example: “‘What is going on?’ Her voice cracked.  She was tense.”  At least one of those sentences is unnecessary.

But the plot just zips along. If you haven’t read the ultimate locked-room mystery and you want a page-turner-y book that’s a mash-up of I Know What You Did Last Summer+Scream+And Then There Were None then go for it.

Read for the Teen Book Group at my bookstore.

Dear FTC: I borrowed this from the library via Overdrive.

stuff I read · YA all the way

Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson (The Gold Seer Trilogy #1)

Summary from Goodreads:
The first book in a new trilogy from acclaimed New York Times-bestselling author Rae Carson. A young woman with the magical ability to sense the presence of gold must flee her home, taking her on a sweeping and dangerous journey across Gold Rush–era America. Walk on Earth a Stranger begins an epic saga from one of the finest writers of young adult literature.

Lee Westfall has a secret. She can sense the presence of gold in the world around her. Veins deep beneath the earth, pebbles in the river, nuggets dug up from the forest floor. The buzz of gold means warmth and life and home—until everything is ripped away by a man who wants to control her. Left with nothing, Lee disguises herself as a boy and takes to the trail across the country. Gold was discovered in California, and where else could such a magical girl find herself, find safety?

Rae Carson, author of the acclaimed Girl of Fire and Thorns series, dazzles with the first book in the Gold Seer Trilogy, introducing a strong heroine, a perilous road, a fantastical twist, and a slow-burning romance, as only she can.

YA series are the worst series to start when only partially finished.  The best ones leave you salivating for more and the first book in Rae Carson’s new trilogy, The Gold Seer, is no exception.

So…hands up, who played Oregon Trail on a PC in the 1990s, 8-bit graphics and all?  And died, a lot?  Seriously, I never ONCE made it to Oregon. I always caught cholera or got bit by a rattlesnake or the oxen died or I ran out of water….clearly, I would never survive in IRL wilderness let alone a 19th century wagon train.

The heroine of Walk on Earth a Stranger, Leah, must disguise herself as Lee-the-boy to escape her nefarious uncle (not a spoiler) and join a wagon train headed to Gold Rush-era California.  With her best friend, Jefferson McCauley, of course.  Leah must also protect her gold-sensing ability – she’s like a dowser but instead of divining water, she can divine specks of gold dust.  The route from her small town in Georgia to the gold fields of California is hard and dangerous.  There are thieves (maybe one of them was sent to find her), disease, starvation, bad water, racist jerks, and a Micawber of-sorts but far less good-hearted than the real Micawber (those of you who’ve read Dickens’s David Copperfield, I’ll let you work that one out).  But Lee grows from a fifteen-year-old girl running for her life into a competent, strong woman through her journey.

Walk on Earth a Stranger is a change from Carson’s previous trilogy, Girl of Fire and Thorns.  Those books were straight-up fantasy based around the premise of god-chosen individuals in a medieval Spanish-like setting who are expected to perform miracles; the heroine, Elisa, must save her adopted country from usurping dictators and balance the flow of magic and religion between two races and religions.  Walk on Earth a Stranger could remain a solid historical fiction series with the exception of Lee’s gold-divining ability.  The historical research is A-plus without bashing the reader over the head with obvious details.  The secondary characters are memorable and diverse.  Carson allows real events like menstruation and childbirth to happen in real time as perfectly normal things (this is important – real girls get periods and real women worried about dying in childbirth so the fact that these are presented as issues one might run into while disguised as a boy or travelling as a woman in a wagon train to California is a way to firmly root characters in reality.  Side note: Lee isn’t the pregnant one, before y’all start freaking out).

I loved the heck out of this book.  Walk on Earth a Stranger is well-plotted, perfectly paced to keep you reading, and formed around a kick-ass young woman who learns to be an adult in one of the harshest environments imaginable.  This first book in the Gold Seer Trilogy wraps up nicely, but I really hope we don’t have long to wait for the second and then the third.

Walk on Earth a Stranger is available today, September 22, 2015, wherever books are sold.

Dear FTC: I received a DRC of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss.